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Archive of Press releases
26th July 2004 : Announcing the birth of the UK Transhumanist Association
6th September 2004 : UN ban on therapeutic and reproductive cloning would be double folly
16th October 2005 : Biosciences regulation: Don't strangle goodwill with red tape
23rd March 2008 : Transhumanists: Government Embryology Bill Essential To Reduce Suffering
Aubrey de Grey update on the Methuselah Mouse Prize
Aubrey de Grey talks about recent deveopments in the Methuselah Mouse Prize.
Download a recording of his talk by clicking here
(11.7Mb mp3 file).
Anders Sandberg talks about Religion and Transhumanism
Anders Sandberg gave an impromptu talk about the relationship between Transhumanism and Religion at the 26 September 2006 meeting of the UKTA in London. Download a recording of his talk by clicking here
(10Mb mp3 file).
Genetics and reproductive decision making
The UKTA submitted the following answers to the Human Genetics
Commission's questions on genetics and reproductive decision making,
as part of the commission's "Choosing the Future" public consultation:
1. Various forms of prenatal screening have now become a
routine part of medical practice in the UK today. An increasing
number of genetic conditions may be included in screening programmes
in the future. How do you feel about these developments?
Prenatal screening is an extremely useful tool and a very positive
development. It should be viewed in a similar way to the screening
of newborns for the inherited condition PKU. This alerts parents to
the need for a carefully monitored diet which ameliorates the
condition. Prenatal screening alerts parents to any special
requirements their child might have, and it can also make them aware of
the need to take an informed decision on whether they
might be able to cope with severe diseases, such as Lesch-Nyhan
syndrome, which results in a short, pain-filled life marred by severe
retardation and self-mutilation.
The expected increase in the number of genetic conditions included
in screening programmes is also a very positive development, for the
same reasons. There has been much alarmism in recent years in the
media, regarding an alleged "slippery slope" towards "designer
babies", and a certain degree of uneasiness regarding the practice is
understandable, but as long as prenatal screening is used to alert
parents of debilitating medical conditions, rather than aesthetic
or non-medical parameters, such worries remain unfounded.
2. We are interested in the extent to which you have
confidence in the current provision of prenatal screening and
diagnostic services. For example: Is adequate counselling provided?
Is sufficient and appropriate information offered at all stages of
the process? Is the information provided fully accessible to all
groups in the community? Is counselling non-directive?
3. It has been claimed that prenatal screening and diagnosis
presupposes that most women and couples will opt for termination if
a genetic disorder is identified, some feel this reflects a wider
negative assessment in society of the value of the lives of disabled
people and/or people with genetic disorders. Do you agree or
disagree with this view? And why?
It is worth pointing out that, as mentioned in your document, the
majority of people knowing they are about to have a disabled child,
choose not to abort. This reflects a healthy diversity of opinions
on the issue and suggests that a majority of the people that really
count -parents- hold a positive assessment of the value of the lives
of disabled people and/or people with genetic disorders.
We should also remember that any termination is a profoundly
personal decision and to try and interpret it as some sort of
judgment on living people that happen to share some of the
characteristics of any terminated foetus would be both morally
wrong and misleading.
4. There are a number of genetic disorders for which embryos and
fetuses can be tested. Should the use of PGD to test and select an
embryo be governed by the same principles as the use of prenatal
genetic testing (PND)? And to what extent should people have the
right to request the testing of an embryo or fetus for particular
The clear difference between the techniques is that PND (prenatal
genetic testing) could influence the destiny of a foetus as
old as 24 weeks, while PGD (pre-implantation genetic diagnosis) would
influence the destiny of a three day old embryo composed of six to
ten cells. This non trivial difference highlights the need for more
stringent rules for PND than for PGD. PND should not be used for
frivolous reasons (aesthetic or non-debilitating conditions). On the
other hand, such considerations are less of a concern in the case of
PGD, where parents' freedom of choice should be allowed to a greater
Within the above framework, prospective parents should have the
right to request the testing of both an embryo or a foetus for any
genetic condition that is currently testable.
5. Whilst treatment using donor sperm, eggs and embryos is
regulated in the UK, there exist companies outside the regulatory
framework who can match potential donors with recipients. To what
extent should people be able to choose the characteristics of a donor
in the hope that they will conceive a child who inherits these
The extent to which people choose the characteristics of a sperm or
egg donor in the hope that they will conceive a child who inherits
certain characteristics should be entirely up to them. To try to
forcibly limit their freedom of choice in this area would be not
only unjust, but also ineffective, as there would be too many ways
to circumvent such a restriction.
6. What, if any, are the potential future developments in this field
that give you hope and/or concern? How might your hopes or concerns
be addressed most effectively?
A hope for the potential developments in this field is that, as we
gain further control over our own nature in the near future, this
form of directed evolution will allow us not only to spare pain and
misery to future individuals, but to do so for their descendants
too. Furthermore, we might also be able to give future generations
the best possible start in life: a healthy body and a sound mind.
This implies that we view germ-line intervention or engineering as a
tool that should be taken into serious consideration. As is the
case with any technology, it could be used for good, or it could be
abused, but passing on genetic traits that confer resistance to
illness, for instance, can only be viewed as a positive goal. Further
advances might allow even more significant interventions, such as
the passing on to future generations of attributes that today would
be described as more than human (superior physical attributes,
mental abilities, longevity, etc). We look forward to a day when
this is a real possibility. To those worried about the possibility
of a slippery slope towards eugenics, we would like to point out that
the past horrors committed in the name of eugenics were all forced
on unwilling subjects and that by leaving decisional power in the
hands of the individuals concerned, with their inherent diversity,
eugenic scenarios are automatically excluded.
7. Genetics is a rapidly changing field, particularly in relation to
reproduction. Are there any issues you would like to raise about the
framework and organisation of services in light of potential
developments over the next decade?
Given our position that, generally speaking, parents should retain
decisional power in such matters, the framework of services in this
area should be impartial, non-judgmental and supportive of their
8. Are there any additional issues or concerns you would like to
bring to the attention of the Human Genetics Commission that have
not been addressed in this document?
A concern is the possibility of well-meaning, but overzealous,
regulation resulting in individuals suffering in the name of
theoretical or ideological concerns that have little grounding in
reality. Ethical decisions are best left with individuals as far as
possible. Intervention by regulatory bodies should be limited to
those cases where inaction would result in physical harm or injury.
A further concern is that actions to limit access to available tests
for known genetic conditions might result in litigation against
the NHS. This could be brought by parents whose child is suffering
from a condition that could have been detected in prenatal testing, but
who were denied the choice, and could result in significant
financial losses for the NHS.